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Thursday, November 28, 2019

A Long Awaited Recipe

Guatemalan Pan Frances
Guatemalan Pan Frances
On a Guatemalan theme here, I have been making breads I haven't tasted for 38 years, two of which I showcased in the last couple of blog posts. I haven't posted all the bread recipes I made, but those will be coming, including Guatemalan Pan Frances, their version of  French Bread. Pan ("bread") Frances ("French") in Guatemala is made with divisions easily visible and easy to separate into serving portions without the need for a knife. I will get to that recipe soon, but meanwhile, this is what it looks like.

Another food that I haven't made in what seems like forever, but in reality, I had made at least twice since returning to the U.S in late 1981 is Paches, Pronounced PAH-chez, the "e" with a short ĕ sound, as in set, or let. Before getting into Paches, a little background. 

Disambiguation: 

Guatemalan tamales are not at all like the Mexican tamales one finds in the southwest U.S and other places where pockets of Mexican communities take root. I have nothing against Mexican tamales, and buy them often enough as they are delicious, but the closest thing to a Mexican tamal (Tamal = singular form) found in Guatemala is called a Chuchito (literally translated to small dog, or puppy). Chuchitos, also wrapped in dried corn husks as with Mexican tamales, are made quite similarly to Mexican Tamales, but Guatemalan Tamales are a different thing altogether. 
Clockwise from top: Sweet Tamal - Chuchito - Savory Tamal
Clockwise from top: Sweet Tamal - Chuchito - Savory Tamal
At left is a photo courtesy of Rudy Giron at Antigua Daily Photo, showing Guatemalan Tamales and a Chuchito. Read more about Rudy's daily photos here.
For one thing, Guatemalan Tamales (Tamales = plural) are large, and are usually eaten as a meal alone, or with a side of eggs or black beans, or both. Some Pan Frances on the side and you are all set. These tamales are a huge process to create, and well-worth it, particularly with some help. They are made with a base of corn masa, or rice flour, or a combination of both. Topping this is a sauce ("recado") that can be savory and tinted with annatto seeds - or - lightly sweetened, with chocolate added to the sauce. In the center is a piece of meat (chicken, turkey, pork, even duck), and stuck in around the periphery are 1 prune, 1 raisin, one olive, one caper, a slivered almond, and over top of all a strip of red pimiento pepper (not everyone uses all these extras, called "adornments" - some use only 1 or two). These are wrapped in a green leaf called Maxan or Mashan. Many places say that these are wrapped in banana leaves, and while they can be, banana leaves are far more fragile and tear too easily. Maxan leaves are stronger, tear to size easily and do not need to be immersed in boiling water to make them flexible.

And now, on to the Paches

Paches, while made the same size as a Guatemalan Tamal, have their masa base as potatoes. Instead of having the sauce poured over top of the base as with tamales, it is mixed right in. Generally made with a piece of pork inside, it can also be made with chicken. And, instead of the many additions, just one olive is inserted alongside the meat. Sometimes, a single, whole, long, green chili pepper is laid over top before wrapping. Paches have similar flavor to tamales, but are far less work to make. Somewhere I read that they originated in Quetzaltenango, as potatoes are a crop there. Somehow, along the way, Thursdays became Paches Day, and most often they are found sold from huge baskets on street corners, in the markets or outside of grocery stores. Only on Thursdays.
One of my Paches served on its parchment wrapper
One of my Paches served on its parchment wrapper

I loved paches while living in Guatemala, and still do, although I hadn't made them for many, many years. And, I have no ready access to Maxan leaves. Instead, I used parchment paper, something I have also done when making tamales here in the U.S. with no access to Maxan leaves. The final outcome lacks that green flavor from the leaf, but the pache is still tremendously tasty. 

Peel cooked potatoes, pass through food mill, add in recado and mix
Peel cooked potatoes, pass through food mill, add in recado and mix

Making Paches

To make Paches, there are three main steps:
  1. Make the "recado" or sauce
  2. Cook the pieces of meat
  3. Cook the potatoes whole, peel and rice them or pass through a food mill
To save time, I made the sauce a couple of days ahead. It doesn't take long to make, but when doing all three steps on one day, on one's own, it gets more time consuming, and I am all for making "lighter days." I also cooked the meat ahead of time and stored it, in its broth, in the fridge till I needed it. When it came to making the paches a couple of days ago, I set the potatoes to cook, whole, in their skins, for about an hour, then went ahead with the recipe. I peeled all the potato skins off, then passed the potatoes through a food mill. Using a food mill or a ricer is important; at minimum, use a hand potato masher, though this will not give a smooth outcome (texture is a matter of preference anyway). To try and whip the potatoes would turn them gluey, not a good consistency.

Once the potatoes are ready, add in the butter (a mix of butter and lard is also good) and the recado/sauce and stir well. Taste for salt. Despite cooking the potatoes in salted water, they need salt to make the taste right. Amount is subjective; start with a teaspoon of salt and add little by little until it suits your taste, mixing well between additions.

And then Comes the Wrapping


Maxan Leaves - Calathea lutea
Maxan Leaves - Calathea Lutea
If one is lucky enough to have maxan leaves for wrapping, you will need sections at least 12 to 14-inches square (more or less square). On top of this wrapper piece of leaf, a second, smaller "serving leaf" is set atop the first. This second serving leaf is generally smaller, a minimum of about 9-inches squar-ish. It can be as large as the first leaf, but does not need to be. Once paches are wrapped, steamed and ready to serve, the packet is unwrapped, and the inner leaf, along with the pache, is slid onto a plate for serving.  

Steps 1 to 3 of wrapping Paches
Steps 1 to 3 of wrapping Paches
To make the packets using parchment, no inner "leaf" is needed. 
  • Step 1: lay out the parchment square at an angle with one point towards you. Set an amount of the pache mixture, at least a cup, but preferably 1½ to 1¾-cup worth in the center of the paper. Add in one chunk of meat and one olive.
  • Step 2: If the potato mixture is very stiff, pat the mixture to cover the meat. 
  • Step 3: Fold the bottom point upwards to cover the mixture.
Continue with folding:
Steps 4 to 6 of Wrapping Paches
Steps 4 to 6 of Wrapping Paches
  • Step 4: Neaten edges of parchment, pressing in around the mixture, then fold the right point left, across the mixture.
  • Step 5: Neaten the edges, tucking in close to the pache mixture.
  • Step 6: Take the left point and bring to the right, across the packet. If the point is too long, simply fold it around to the under side of the packet.
To finish with folding the packet:
Steps 7 to 9 of Wrapping Paches
Steps 7 to 9 of Wrapping Paches
  • Step 7: At this point, the packet can remain on the flat surface, or it can be lifted in hands.
  • Step 8: Take the top point and neatly fold it downwards to cover the whole packet.
  • Step 9: Flip the packet so the last point is now pointing upwards. This is the orientation of the packets to place into a pot for steaming.

Preparing a pot (or two) for Steaming

To steam tamales, tamalitos, chuchitos / Mexican tamales, it was explained to me thusly: The bundles can be tied closed, to prevent the packet leaking. 

Or. 

The bundle can be placed with the last fold upwards and leaning one against the next, keeping them at an upwards slant, that last fold will contain the mixture and prevent leakage. I have seen photos of batches of leaf-wrapped tamales, all tied neatly, and haphazardly placed in a pot. Instead, I was taught by various Maya ladies that the goal is to keep the center of the pot open, so steam can hit all the tamales evenly. To do this, they all need to be placed neatly around the edge of the large pot, on a rack, or a rack made from various stems of the Maxan leaves, to keep them off the bottom of the pot and out of the steaming water. If your pot is very large, you may be able to fit a second row of paches (tamales, chuchitos) inside the first, while still maintaining a small center hole for steam. Top the standing packets with another leaf, tucked down around the edges, cover tightly with a lid, and steam for an hour, checking often to ensure there is water in the pot, adding more if needed.

I have round racks for cooling cakes. They are about 9-inches diameter and fit neatly into my soup pots. Lacking the leaves and their thick veins to use, these racks are perfect. I used a small jar to lean the first packet against, following around the perimeter of the pot, leaning each packet against the last, until reaching the first one. Remove the jar and set the last packet in. I have not bothered with covering the top with another piece of parchment, though when I do have leaves to hand, I do tuck them over top of the packets before covering with lid. Partly, this helps with not steaming the pot dry, as the condensation collecting inside the top leaf just slides back into the pot. If not using the extra precaution, do keep a sharp eye and ear out for the pan running dry - add in more water before this happens.

The recipe: 


Paches Quetzaltecos


Makes about 15

1 to 1¼ pounds pork roast, cut in 15 - 18 pieces
5 pounds potatoes, cooked whole, peeled, passed through food mill
Pache for breakfast with egg, beans and pan frances
Pache for breakfast with egg, beans and pan frances

2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
8 ounces butter or lard
1 bunch maxán leaves for wrapping, washed (or 14 x 14-inch parchment)
15 olives
15 long, thin green chiles, optional

FOR THE RECADO (SAUCE):
1 cup tomatillos, broiled, blistered/charred
6 Roma tomatoes, broiled, blistered/charred
1 onion, quartered & separated, broiled until charred at edges
2 garlic cloves, broiled to light brown
1 chillie guaque or guajillo, seeds removed, soaked in boiling water

1 pasilla chile, seeds removed, soaked in boiling water
1 ounce pumpkin seeds (3 TB)
1 ounce sesame seeds (¼ cup)
5 whole allspice berries
10 whole black peppercorns
1 (2-inch) piece cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves

½ ounce annatto seeds (1½ TB) OR -
1½ teaspoons annatto powder

4 pieces French bread, soaked in water

Place the cubed meat into a pot with water to just cover. Add in about 1 teaspoon of the salt and a bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until the meat is tender, about 45 minutes. Use immediately or cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

For the sauce: If using whole annatto seeds, heat the annatto seeds in a tablespoon or so of oil (or water), as needed and then press them, rubbing against a sieve, getting as much color out into the oil as possible. Pour this oil in a blender container with the charred tomatillos, tomatoes, onion, garlic & soaked, drained chilies. Squeeze out the soaked bread slightly and add to the blender. Toast the pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds separately in a dry skillet, then remove to the blender. Toast together in the same dry skillet the allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves until fragrant, then add to blender and puree the mixture until fine. (If preferred, grind these last 5 spices in a spice grinder, then add to the blender.) In a frying pan, heat 2 oz of the butter or lard and pour in the blended ingredients and fry, stirring, until slightly thickened. Once thickened, mix the sauce with the riced or milled potatoes, add in the remaining 6 ounces of butter and check the flavor for salt, adding the second teaspoon of salt, plus more if deemed needed for flavor.

Clean and cut the leaves to about 14 x 14-inches (or use similarly sized squares of parchment). If using leaves, have a second, smaller leaf set in the center of the larger leaf, for serving, later. Hold the square of leaf/parchment in hand (or set on a flat surface), diagonally, with a point towards you and place a large spoonful (at least 1
½ to 1¾ cups worth) of the mixture in the center; set a piece of the cooked pork into the center of the potato mixture, add one green olive (typically with the pit). Make sure the meat is covered with the potato mixture. If available, set one long, thin, green, whole chili pepper on top, then wrap, folding as shown above: bottom point upwards, right point over to the left, left point over to the right, then top point down. Flip packet vertically, so final point is now upwards, and set at an upright angle in the prepared pot with rack in bottom. The packet should be placed so that the last folded point is angled towards the bottom, thus keeping it closed and intact, pressed against the previous one. Once the packets make a ring around the outer edges of the pan, leaving a center hole, pour 2 cups of water into the pot into the center hole, cover with a tight fitting lid, bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer, then time for one hour, keeping watch that the water does not all boil out, adding more if needed. The paches should not be setting IN the water, but be steamed only.
Wrapped Paches leaning around pot, then cooling on counter
Wrapped Paches leaning around pot, then cooling on counter

Once the hour is up, use a flat spatula to remove the packets to a clean surface to cool, then store in the refrigerator.

To heat and serve, place a small amount of water in a skillet with lid, set in as many paches as will fit comfortable, then cover and cook for about 20 minutes. If frozen, do the same, but allow at least 40 minutes to heat all the way through. Unwrap and either slide off leaf or paper onto plate or set the leaf/paper on plate and fold large edges under themselves.



My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

More Guatemalan Pan Dulce

Yesterday I wrote about finally finding recipes - or at least videos - that point to ingredients for Guatemalan Pan Dulce, or Pan de Manteca (Sweet Bread or Bread enriched with one of many ingredients, such as shortening, lard, butter, eggs, sugar). The amounts may not be there in the videos, or may only be partially complete in sites with a "recipe," but I can manage to figure amounts out on my own. What I'd wanted to know was what were the actual ingredients used. So after a long-winded story, yesterday's post was on a recipe I had long wished for, called Shecas, a bread that should be made with rapadura (pilon/piloncillo), a sugar cane product that is sold as a solid chunk, being grated for a recipe. Oh, and anise seeds. Those two ingredients were key.
Pan Tostada
Pan Tostada: Hojtas, Pan de Churro & Rosquitas

But Shecas, or Champurradas, or Molletes are only the tip of that particular iceberg. There are so very many types of Pan Dulce available there. Some of the types of breads are made crispy. Champurradas are one of those types, and their crispiness is most wonderful dipped into coffee or hot chocolate. Mmmmm. Another style of breads, and Champurradas can also be made from this same dough, fall under the general title of "Pan Tostado," meaning Toasted Bread. In this case, toasted just means baked until crisp. Under the umbrella of the title of "Pan Tostado" come quite a few options for shapes and styles, each shape with its own name. I opted to try these out as they are tasty, though they were not high on my most favorite list. I made the dough, which came out beautifully, and then proceeded to form them into three of the possible shapes: Hojitas (oh-HEE-tahs) or little leaves, Pan de Churro (so called, I imagine, as they look like they had been extruded like a churro) and roscas or rosquitas (rings, or small rings, respectively).

Pan Tostada in its various shapes, all seem to be dredged in sugar before baking, giving them a sweet exterior. That said, most of the time that I saw Rosquitas, they had no sugar on them. I made a recipe for those some time ago (see that recipe here) and they are good, too, though this new version is lighter and more crisp.

Pan Tostada


Made 24 breads

Shaping Pan de ChurroIn a bowl, mix together the lard, sugar, salt, egg, vanilla and cinnamon, with about half the water until fairly well combined. Separately, stir together the flour and baking powder to distribute evenly, then add half the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring. Add the remaining water and flour and stir until the mass comes together. Continue to mix by hand until you have a cohesive dough. Divide the dough into 24 pieces, about 1-ounce each, then either make some of all three shapes, or make all into one shape. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a couple of baking sheets. Have ready a wide bowl or flat plate with sugar. Once any of the forms is shaped, dredge them in the sugar on both sides, then set on the baking sheet. They will not grow significantly, so an inch of space between them is sufficient.


To make Pan de Churro: Take the portion of dough and roll out into a log
about 12 inches in length. Take about a third of the length and fold alongside the main length of the log. Overlapping slightly, bring up the other end of the log and set over top, in the little space made by the first fold. Dredge in sugar and place on baking sheet, then continue with more shapes.


To make Hojitas:  Roll out the dough to an oval shape about 5 to 6 inches in length. Using one finger on each hand, begin pressing the dough towards the inside of the oval, enough to slightly overlap the dough in a crescent. Repeat this along the outer edge of the oval on both sides simultaneously, until reaching the bottom of the oval. Dredge in sugar and set onto baking sheet, then continue with more shapes.


Shaping RosquitasTo make Rosquitas: Roll out a portion of the dough into a log, then make into a circle, pressing ends together to seal. Use a small knife to cut halfway into the thickness of the ring, making a fringe. The fringe can be made all the way around the circle, halfway around the circle, or omitted entirely, leaving the circle smooth. Dredge the shape in sugar, set on the baking sheet and continue with more shapes, until the dough is gone. 

Bake the breads for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden and crisp. 


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Guatemalan Pan Dulce

I spent 12 years in Guatemala, from age 20 to 32. It has been 38 years since I returned to the U.S. In all that time, I have wished for the knowledge of how to make the Pan Dulce that was available down there fresh daily, usually delivered door to door by a guy on a bicycle with a huge basket of these breads attached to his handlebars.

Pan Dulce

For those who do not know anything of pan dulce, it directly translates as "sweet bread." In reality, the term more aptly applies to enriched breads, or ones whose recipes call for using lard / shortening / butter, eggs, sugar and sometimes vanilla. These are also sometimes referred to as "Pan de Manteca," manteca meaning shortening (or lard or butter). This descriptor of "pan dulce" is to mark the difference from pan frances. "Pan Frances" is translated to French Bread, which, of course, is simply a mix of flour, water, salt and yeast. Bread at its most basic, and no less delicious, for the lack of the enriched ingredients.

These sweet breads are all made as individual serving breads, all smaller, not much more than 2 ounce bits of goodness. As the vendors would ride up to the house, honking their little bicycle horns to announce themselves, we would rush out and select the bread assortment for the day. The assortment could consist of 10 different varieties of bread or more. What fantastic variety. 
 
My Pan Dulce Assortment to date
My Pan Dulce Assortment to date

Finding Recipes

So it has been that over the years I have occasionally looked through the internet in hopes of an inkling into what, exactly, constituted a recipe for some of these sweetened, enriched breads. I had a recipe for a roll dough that seemed like it could easily be used to make molletes. The only thing lacking was the little sugary topping part. I finally found, after a lot of searching, a mixture that worked for that sugary topping, and I made what, for all intents and purposes, were molletes, and I was ecstatic.  
Champurradas
Champurradas

Somewhat earlier, I had found a recipe for some cookie-like "breads" called Champurradas, and I measured out and recorded ingredients for what I had done. These "breads" were never very sweet, at least not in Guatemala. They are not a cookie, as we know cookies. Yet nowadays, as I was looking through all the (now available) recipes for champurradas, they are always termed "cookies" and always have a LOT of sugar in them, very unlike what I knew in Guatemala. Still, I wasn't completely happy with my previous champurradas recipe. They didn't taste exactly right. And so, I went about changing the recipe to one which, now, I am totally happy with. Great for dunking into coffee or hot chocolate. Yummy.

Another one of the breads that was a personal favorite out of all the amazing variety, were called Shecas (also spelled Xecas, with the "x" making the same "sh" sound, and also known as Semitas or Cemitas). Even 5 years ago, I was completely unable to find even a mention of these breads on the internet, much less a recipe (or two for comparison). Over the intervening years the availability of all things on the internet has bloomed and now there is so very much available that it is hard to even recall a time when all this was only a distant dream. And as small a country as Guatemala may be (about the size of Tennessee, and most of it rural - REALLY, REALLY rural), suddenly it is being overrun with tourists and so much has become available, be it just photos, travel blogs or recipes and videos, even from outlying places as far off as Coban. Truly amazing. 
Shecas
Shecas

Shecas
Shecas
And with all this, I have finally gotten a recipe for the Shecas I craved all these years, along with so many others. I have been baking daily for over a week now, and to date have made Shecas, Pan Tostada (made into different shapes: Pan de Churro, Hojaldras and Rosquitas), Campechanas and Lenguas (these last two from the same dough, but different styles), Pan de Yemas (aka Pan de Fiesta). I remade the molletes and champurradas to a better, more authentic style (and updated the recipes in those blogs to reflect the changes that made them far tastier). For today, I am setting out my own recipe for Shecas, at long last. Shecas call for "rapadura", or "piloncillo," as the sugar, these being a solid version of sugar before it has gone on to be refined into white sugar. It is usually grated. I had none of this available, and for the sake of ease for others making these, used a mix of brown sugar and molasses.


There are not a lot of recipes for Shecas out there available, and most are similar. But. The recipes are very poorly written, often omitting amounts, or giving amounts some in grams, some in cups, with no happy medium to follow. One called for 3 TABLESPOONS of baking powder! I don't think so!!! A lot of the work this past week was determining the exact amounts to make these breads turn out well. Any of the yeast breads can be made into bun-like breads, fit for any meal or occasion. Thanksgiving is coming up shortly, and whether you have Guatemalan memories, or just want something new, I hope you may give some of these recipes a try.

Shecas / Xecas


Makes 20 individual breads



In a bowl combine the first 6 dry ingredients, whisking together; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lard and molasses, then slowly stir in the water. Stir in about half the dry mixture, stirring well, then add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix well, converting to hands once mixture is too thick for a spoon.
Dough passes windowpane test
Dough passes windowpane test

The mixing can be done in a heavy duty stand mixer, if preferred. If kneading by hand, turn out to a greased surface, and with hands also well greased, knead the dough for 15 to 20 minutes or until it passes the windowpane test, shown here. The gluten should have developed sufficiently so that when a small piece of dough is pulled out between two hands, the dough stretches enough to see light through, without tearing. 

Grease a clean bowl and set the dough in, turning once to grease both sides. Cover with a towel or plastic film and set aside to rise until nearly doubled, about an hour.
Forming Shecas with topknot
Forming Shecas with topknot

Turn the dough out onto a clean, greased surface and divide the dough into 20 equal balls of about 1.5 ounces or 44 grams each. Set a bowl out with flour in it for dusting and rolling. With each of the little balls of dough, roll each piece of dough into a nice, tight ball, then follow the sequence pictured above:
  1. Using the side of your hand, roll one side of the dough into two distinct areas, rather like a bowling pin. The larger end will be the body of the roll and the smaller end will be the topknot, just like as for brioche. 
  2. Lift the dough by the smaller ball end and stand upright.
  3. Pinch around the "neck" of the smaller ball and begin pressing the small ball downwards, setting it deeply into the larger ball.
  4. Finished and formed "Sheca."
Formed dough dredged in flour and set to rise
Formed dough dredged in flour and set to rise
As each roll is formed with its topknot, dredge it in the bowl with plain flour to coat well. Set the rolls, well apart, onto a greased baking sheet.  Cover lightly with a sheet of plastic film and allow to proof for about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Once rolls have grown to not quite twice their size. Bake them on a middle rack for 25 minutes, until nicely browned.



My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

More Cookie Recipes

I have such a variety of cookie recipes, though interestingly, I do not make cookies all that often. Holidays are when I go into high gear on making cookies - and that usually happens last minute! 

I have two more recipes to share here, and these are generally not ones I make for holidays. These first, I came up with the combination on my own, only later to find that indeed they are very similar in style to macarons, those cute little sandwiched meringue type cookies seen all over, now. I had long intended to try making macarons, yet they were just one of those things I couldn't seem to find the time to get around to. And then over time, macarons seemed to take the internet by storm, and suddenly they were everywhere. But long before I seriously got around to making macarons, this recipe just came together.

These macaron-like cookies are also basically egg whites and almond flour, and gluten free. I did add a touch of chocolate, but more as a spice mixture combo than as a chocolate flavoring agent. They are stellar in the flavor department, and at one point, I had a couple of teenage boys visiting, and they just about polished off the whole plate of these cookies.

Cinnamon Spice Macarons


These are single cookies; not the smooth-topped little sandwich types seen everywhere these days. Very similar in style, I made these a bit larger, but they are basically a meringue cookie with finely ground almonds. The spices make for an interesting combination. They disappeared in no time in my house.
Cinnamon Spice Macaron Cookies
Cinnamon Spice Macaron Cookies

Makes about 55 larger single macarons
Cinnamon Spice Macaron Cookies
Cinnamon Spice Macaron Cookies


6 egg whites (about ¾ cup total), room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup almond “flour” (very finely ground almonds)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cocoa
½ teaspoon cardamom
¼ to ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder
Pinch of salt

In a small bowl combine the almond flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, cocoa, cardamom, chile powder and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

In the bowl of a mixer, place the egg whites and cream of tartar and whip until the whites hold soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the meringue is smooth and glossy and holds stiff peaks. By hand, fold in the dry ingredients gently. Drop by rounded tablespoons into high mounds onto the parchment, allowing at least 2 inches between cookies, as they will flatten and puff as they bake. Bake the meringues for about 40 minutes on two racks in the oven. Switch the sheets top to bottom and front to back about halfway through the baking time. They should be dried on the outside and slightly soft in the center when done. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


These next cookies make a gorgeous presentation. They are a bit time consuming to make, as they are tiny and involve a lot of little steps. They are also so fabulously delicious, that I had a very hard time not OD-ing, the first time I encountered them. I got this recipe from a lady named Colleen, about 40 years ago. I have no idea where she got the recipe. She said someone gave it to her, and she wrote it out on a recipe card for me. All I can say is, for some special occasion, these are a must try. As they are so tiny, the recipe makes a slew of the little wafers, and make over 50 little sandwich cookies. 


Cream Wafers


These are tiny little things (about 1½ inches in diameter) and take a bit of time to make all the little rounds and then assemble. However, they are so flaky and light, the raves you will get will more than offset any time spent on making them. Believe me!
Single Wafers before Filling
Single Wafers before Filling

Makes a lot of tiny cookies!

WAFERS

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
Cream Wafers
Cream Wafers
⅓ cup whipping cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
Granulated sugar

CREAMY FILLING
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Food Coloring, optional

MAKE WAFERS: Mix together thoroughly the butter and flour, as for pie dough. Add the whipping cream and form a ball. Cover and chill.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out about ⅓ of the dough at a time, to about ⅛-inch thick. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated until ready to use. Cut the rolled dough into 1½-inch diameter circles. Transfer the little rounds with a spatula to a piece of waxed paper heavily covered with the granulated sugar. Turn each round so that both sides are sugar coated. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Prick the little dough circles with a fork about 4 times. Very important! Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until just set, but not brown. Repeat with the other ⅔ of the dough. Cool the wafers.

MAKE CREAMY FILLING: Cream the butter with the confectioners’ sugar; add vanilla and beat until smooth and fluffy. Tint with food coloring if desired. Put a small amount of filling on the bottom side of one wafer, press another bottom side of a wafer against the filling, to make tiny sandwich cookies.

NOTES: When I made these recently, I used the base of a large star icing tip that measured the right size to cut out the little wafers. A small circle cutter will also work well, if it is not too large. These are too delicate to make them too large.



My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Veggie Turkey and Cookies and Candies

Not at the same time, mind you!


The Turkey

Some years back I had created a simple veggie tray with the look of a turkey, for the purpose of teaching a class. It was a hit, because everyone in the class was able to recreate it, making everyone feel good. Granted, it is simple. But, you know? Sometimes simple is the best.  So if you happen to need a veggie tray for upcoming festivities, or to take and assemble somewhere else, this one will be great for you. There is no real recipe. Just set the vegetables in the manner shown, and voila!

Turkey Crudite Platter
Turkey Crudite Platter
More veggies can be added to make a more artistic "turkey" or just to be able to serve more people. Cauliflower or broccoli florets would be a pretty addition. Also, olives, whether black, green or reddish (Kalamata) can also be added into spaces. Arrange these in a symmetric manner and there you have it.


Turkey Crudité Platter


Serves a small crowd, alongside other appetizers

1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 cucumber
1 bag of "baby carrots"
1 black olive (or more, as desired) 
2 scallions
large lettuce leaves to line platter
1 large, round serving platter

A few hours or up to a couple of days ahead, cut off the roots from the scallions, then cut off the tops to leave a length about 4-inches long. Slice lengthwise down the white parts, about 1 to 1½-inches up the length of the white part. Repeat with at least one more cut lengthwise, and a third, if possible, to give the scallion the ability to curl. Set the white, cut ends of the scallion down into a jar or bowl with ample room to allow for the scallions to curl evenly. Place in the fridge to chill. Once the scallions have curled, they are ready to use.

From the bottom of a green pepper, cut off about a 1-inch thick chunk; this will be the turkey's "face." Set aside.

Slice the cucumber into rings, Cut the remaining part of the green pepper in half, lengthwise, clean out seeds and membranes and slice across into thin half-"circle" rings. Set aside. Cut the two other bell peppers in half, lengthwise, clean out seeds and membranes, then cut across into thin (about ½-inch thick) half rings. Set aside.From some of the top or bottom pieces of the red and yellow peppers, cut a long, narrow, triangular wedge; these will be the beak and wattle. 

Place lettuce leaves onto the platter, enough so they will be visible all around the edges, making a nice "frame." Begin by making the body of the turkey using the cucumber slices, layering them towards the bottom ⅔ of the platter and building them up in the center. Arrange the baby carrots neatly around the top half of the platter, making two or more rows, as needed. Layer on the red bell pepper rings nearest the top edge of the cucumbers, then the yellow pepper rings, then the green pepper rings, which should now be slightly overlapping the carrots. Set the inch-thick piece of green bell pepper on top of the mound of cucumbers. Place two black olive slices as eyes, then the yellow pepper wedge pointing downwards as the beak, with the red pepper "wattle" triangle near and slightly downwards from the beak. Remove the scallions from the cold water, draining them slightly, then set them with the green tops slipped underneath the cucumbers at the bottom, and now the scallions are the feet. And now you have a lovely turkey to dress your table.


Here are a couple of other possibilities for Christmas: Another platter, mainly broccoli in the shape of a tree and cauliflower florets to set it off, plus some little tomatoes to make it festive. The second uses a foot-high Styrofoam cone, covered in either foil or plastic film. The broccoli florets are attached by inserting toothpicks (the kind that are sharp on both ends) first into the broccoli, then placed onto the Styrofoam. Leave room to create a garland, using little red tomatoes and black olives, inserting toothpicks first into the Styrofoam, then placing the tomato or olive (trying to press these softer vegetables with the toothpick already inserted does not work well). Cut a star from a red bell pepper and insert a toothpick up into the bottom, before inserting it atop the "tree."
Christmas Tree Crudite Platters
Christmas Tree Crudite Platters

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And, on to the Cookies!


Christmas is fast approaching. Scary thought! It is not too early to begin thinking of visitors, parties, get-togethers and such, and planning, planning, planning! And while veggie platters are all well and good, cookies are the name of the game in most houses. I have some old favorites I want to share here, and more that will be shared in another blog. Or two. I do have a lot of cookie recipes, as I have been at this a lot of years, already!

Pecan Praline Fudge


Having made a chocolate fudge using pinto beans as a base ingredient (Nutritious, Delicious Fudge), I wondered how it would be to make a white "fudge" using white beans and no cocoa? My first intent was to make the recipe Maple Walnut, but switched to Pecan Praline. Feel free to substitute maple flavoring for the pecan praline flavoring and walnuts for the pecans, if desired.


Pecan Praline Fudge
Pecan Praline Fudge

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan

Pecan Praline Fudge
Pecan Praline Fudge
1 can (15-ounce) white beans (navy or great northern)   
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons pecan praline flavoring
2 pounds + 2 cups confectioners' sugar (about 6 cups in total)
2 cups pecans, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside.

Pour beans into a colander and run copious amounts of cool water over them until they stop foaming. Allow to drain well, then place the beans in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth, stopping and scraping the sides as needed. Add in the melted butter and the flavorings and process to blend thoroughly.

Pour the mass into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the confectioners' sugar and starting very slowly, mix until the whole mass comes together. Add in the pecans and salt and mix again only just to combine. Turn out the whole mass into the prepared pan and with a spatula, press the fudge into the whole pan evenly. Refrigerate until ready to use. Cut into whatever size pieces you prefer for serving.



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Orange, Pistachio & Craisin Fudge


A variation on the above recipe, this one makes a beautiful holiday display, with red, green and yellow mixed in.
Orange Pistachio & Craisin Fudge
Orange Pistachio & Craisin Fudge

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan
Orange Pistachio & Craisin Fudge
Orange Pistachio & Craisin Fudge


1 can (15-ounce) white beans (navy or great northern)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon pistachio flavoring, if available
2 pounds + 2 cups confectioners' sugar (about 6 cups in total)
2 cups total candied orange peel, dried cranberries (craisins) and pistachios, lightly chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside.

Pour beans into a colander and run copious amounts of cool water over them until they stop foaming. Allow to drain well, then place the beans in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth, stopping and scraping the sides as needed. Add in the melted butter and the flavorings and process to blend thoroughly.

Pour the mass into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the confectioners' sugar and salt, then starting very slowly, mix until the whole mass comes together. Add in the orange peel, craisins and pistachios and mix again only just to combine. Turn out the whole mass into the prepared pan and with a spatula, press the fudge into the whole pan evenly. Refrigerate until ready to use. Cut into whatever size pieces you prefer for serving.


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Springerle

Traditionally anise flavored and made with stamped images, these cookies can also be made with
Springerle Cookies
Springerle Cookies
other flavors. I chose to make mine orange flavored. These cookies must be made at least 12 hours prior to baking, as the drying time allows the images to set and show after baking. They puff while baking, so trying to make them too soon may result in the image being blurred.


Makes about 60 to 70 (1¼ x 2-inch) cookies

4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon orange flavoring
3½ to 4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and lemon colored. Add in the sugar gradually while still beating, and then the butter, baking powder, orange zest and flavoring. Begin to incorporate the flour. You may not need all the flour, but the dough should come out stiff and not very sticky. More flour may be added while rolling out the dough if needed.

Flour a surface and turn out the dough. With a regular rolling pin, roll the dough to about ⅓ to ½-inch thick. Using a springerle mold, rolling pin, or cookie stamps, press the mold into the dough to imprint a clear picture. Cut apart the cookies and set them on a floured board or towel. allow the cookies to air dry, uncovered, for at least 12 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Set the dried cookies onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake them for approximately 15 minutes or until set but not brown.

NOTES
: If desired, using edible colored dusts, the designs can be tinted prettily.


Springerle unbaked and baked
Springerle unbaked and baked

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

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